Theme park ride at a movie theater

By Korea Herald

CJ multiplex aims to amplify audiences’ sensory experiences through its 4-DX technology

  • Published : Jul 17, 2014 - 20:29
  • Updated : Jul 17, 2014 - 20:29
It is like going on a ride in an amusement park. In a 4-DX theater the chairs sometimes tremble, rock, heave and pitch; water squirts and bubbles float around; not to mention the odor effects, all in tandem with the action on the big screen.

Thanks to the advancement of technology, moviegoers can enjoy a plethora of theater experiences from merely watching actors on the screen, to wearing 3-D glasses to see the film pop out, all the way to the 4-D experience, where audiences are placed into a film’s environment and ride along together.

The company behind this technology is CJ 4DPLEX, a subsidiary of Korea’s largest multiplex chain CJ CGV. CJ 4DPLEX has integrated its 4-D technology called 4-DX with many Hollywood blockbusters since 2010, and is determined to create a new blueprint for the film industry with a fully immersive film experience that entices all five senses.
Audiences enjoy a 4-DX film. (CJ 4DPLEX)

The blockbuster “Avatar” was the first film to be released in 4-DX in 2010. Since then, over 140 films were mastered in the format, including “Gravity,” “Iron Man 3,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and this year’s box office hit “Frozen.”

As of July 11, there were 109 4-DX theaters in 26 countries, with the most located in South Korea at 22, Mexico in second with 21 and China in third with 18. The newest 4-DX theater, Regal L.A. Live, opened in Los Angeles, becoming the company’s first such theater in the U.S.

“We are very excited that the 4-DX theater opened in the heart of the film industry in L.A.,” said Choi Byung-hwan, CEO of CJ 4DPLEX during a 4-DX press experience program held last week in Seoul. “I just heard that the Regal L.A. Live has been a full house since it opened in June. By next year, we would like to have 300 theaters around the world,” Choi commented.

Mastering into the 4-DX format is not an easy job as the 4-DX editors have to watch the film at least 100 times to program over 20 special effects that correspond with each action in the film. On average, a film takes five editors to design the 4-DX codes over two to three weeks. 
Leonard Lee, a 4-DX editor, designs environmental effects such as motion, scents, mist and wind using computers. (CJ 4DPLEX)

The 4-DX technology has two parts: The motion system and environmental effects. The motion system is responsible for the movement of the chair, which heaves, rolls, pitches and vibrates, while sometimes squirting water or air. The environmental effects include a variety of scents, wind or bubbles.

“The job demands creativity as the editors have to imagine what kind of motion and effects will synchronize with the screen,” said Choi Young, a creative director of the company. “The key is to not go overboard. We don’t want to distract from the viewing experience with all the special effects.”

“When programming 4-DX, the editors carefully follow the camera movement and on-screen action of the film so that these effects will not outshine the director’s original direction of the film,” Choi Young said.

In order to incorporate this extensive technology, 4-DX does come at a price. Tickets costs 18,000 won, twice the price of regular tickets. However, it has been so popular that many people pay the premium to watch the film in 4-DX, and moreover, it has been profitable for the company.

While regular 2-D films have a seat occupancy rate of 30 percent in Korea, 4-DX films have had over 80 percent filled. Also while only 2.5 percent of total movie seats cater to 4-DX, it draws 5 percent of total moviegoers, making up 10 percent of total box office profits.

“Pricing is determined by many parties, including the theater and the distributors,” said the CEO. “Currently, we are still in the investing and developing period. Once the economies of scale reach a certain size, we will be able to adjust the ticket price.

4-DX theaters are rapidly opening around the world. The company expects 4-DX to gain popularity as another form of hallyu.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)